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A year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson
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A year in Japan (edition 2006)

by Kate T. Williamson

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2671572,535 (4.06)4
The Land of the Rising Sun is shining brightly across the American cultural landscape. Recent films such as Lost in Translation and Memoirs of a Geisha seem to have made everyone an expert on Japan, even if they've never been there. But the only way for a Westerner to get to know the real Japan is to become a part of it. Kate T. Williamson did just that, spending a year experiencing, studying, and reflecting on her adopted home. She brings her keen observations to us in A Year in Japan, a dramatically different look at a delightfully different way of life. Avoiding the usual clichés--Japan's polite society, its unusual fashion trends, its crowded subways--Williamson focuses on some lesser-known aspects of the country and culture. In stunning watercolors and piquant texts, she explains the terms used to order various amounts of tofu, the electric rugs found in many Japanese homes, and how to distinguish a maiko from a geisha. She observes sumo wrestlers in traditional garb as they use ATMs, the wonders of "Santaful World" at a Kyoto department store, and the temple carpenters who spend each Sunday dancing to rockabilly. A Year in Japan is a colorful journey to the beauty, poetry, and quirkiness of modern Japana book not just to look at but to experience.… (more)
Member:nytetyger
Title:A year in Japan
Authors:Kate T. Williamson
Info:New York: Princeton Architectural Press, c2006. 1 v. (unpaged) : ill. (chiefly col.) ; 21 cm.
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:nonfiction, Japan, travel, memoir

Work details

A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson

  1. 00
    Meet Me at the Bamboo Table: Everyday Meals Everywhere by A.V. Crofts (sgump)
    sgump: Also an artistic (and delightfully presented) volume, Crofts leaves readers wanting to take up and travel--and see what the world has to offer.
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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Sweet and light, with charming sketches and drawings. I enjoyed the little bits of text, and just about all of them left me more curious than I was at the start. Super quick read, even if you linger over some of the art. ( )
  bookbrig | Aug 5, 2020 |
I liked a lot the drawings and the small-sized bits of information about the Japanese culture. My favorite part of the book was when she tells about the Awa Odori dance and once full page is given to traditional chant in japanese with the english translation right below.

Perhaps more content with what the author saw, felt and experienced would have brought nicer ratio between the amount of images and text... But then again, the short sentences, the ample empty space and simple illustrations worked their magic and set a mood similar to that of a zen garden; no rush, simplicity, insight and beauty.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Japanese culture, traveling, traditions or anyone who wants some refreshing light reading.

( )
  Miss_Honeybug | May 3, 2020 |
A book of pretty pictures, outlined in black with water color like fill. It is idiosyncratically impressionistic, and gets sparse in text in the last 3rd. The pictures don't strike me as original in any way and sometimes need to be figured out. ( )
  quondame | Jun 16, 2019 |
A travelogue right up my alley--Williamson zeroes in on the kind of tiny, fascinating details that are my favorite part of exploring another culture. For instance, in the Japanese language, the words you use for numbers/amounts change depending on what is being numbered/counted. So Williamson gives us a list of the words you would use to order one, two, three, four, five, six, or seven bricks of tofu. The list stops at seven, "because no one would ever order more than that," she's told.

These charming little observations are accompanied by bright, beautiful watercolor illustrations. Some of the accompanying wording is short and brilliant enough to be poetry. This won't take you long to read, but it's a good example of "less is more" -- I felt I had more of an insight into Japan from this quick read than from my weeklong visit there a couple of years ago. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Aug 8, 2017 |
It's really more a collection of watercolor art with some very brief essays thrown in. The author went to study sock design in Japan for a year, and took down notes and sketches of all sorts of aspects of Japanese life. It's really a pretty little book - the art isn't perfect or photorealistic, but it's very charming. She also has pretty handwriting ♥ My favorite part is a painting of a moonlit night sky with a poem by Minamoto no Saneakira on it:

"If only I could show them to someone who knows / This moon, these flowers, this night that should not be wasted." ( )
  on_elc | Aug 22, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
A Year in Japan is so much a visual text that many would undoubtedly classify it as an "art book." Where the book ends and the art begins is intentionally unclear. The author's own vivid watercolors and line drawings are the focal point of this visual journal, with accompanying handwritten text that itself is, perhaps not surprisingly, artistic. . . . Williamson's images and texts add a level of nuance aided by the author's keen sense of observation and detail. Shining through every narrative, as well, is the everyday nature of things. For example, in "Lunch with a Geisha," Williamson recounts having an informal lunch with the geisha Haruno-san in Kyoto. Near the end of this piece, the mundane seems rather unexpected: "After she finished her [egg] sandwich, Haruno-san lit a cigarette and took a picture of me with her cell phone." Geisha are normal people, too, Williamson seems to be saying, with a wink. This essay is preceded by a colorful, annotated differentiation between a geisha and a maiko 舞妓 (an apprentice geisha). What Williamson accomplishes on two pages with two pictures and just fourteen words is quite impressive.
 
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The Land of the Rising Sun is shining brightly across the American cultural landscape. Recent films such as Lost in Translation and Memoirs of a Geisha seem to have made everyone an expert on Japan, even if they've never been there. But the only way for a Westerner to get to know the real Japan is to become a part of it. Kate T. Williamson did just that, spending a year experiencing, studying, and reflecting on her adopted home. She brings her keen observations to us in A Year in Japan, a dramatically different look at a delightfully different way of life. Avoiding the usual clichés--Japan's polite society, its unusual fashion trends, its crowded subways--Williamson focuses on some lesser-known aspects of the country and culture. In stunning watercolors and piquant texts, she explains the terms used to order various amounts of tofu, the electric rugs found in many Japanese homes, and how to distinguish a maiko from a geisha. She observes sumo wrestlers in traditional garb as they use ATMs, the wonders of "Santaful World" at a Kyoto department store, and the temple carpenters who spend each Sunday dancing to rockabilly. A Year in Japan is a colorful journey to the beauty, poetry, and quirkiness of modern Japana book not just to look at but to experience.

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